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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tight-knit Campbell baseball team shows character

Tom King

It happens every spring.

It’s the toughest time for high school coaches and student athletes. Just like National Football League coaches cringe from mid-June to late July, when players are out on their own, at tourney time spring coaches often are waiting for the other shoe to drop. ...

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It happens every spring.

It’s the toughest time for high school coaches and student athletes. Just like National Football League coaches cringe from mid-June to late July, when players are out on their own, at tourney time spring coaches often are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

There are just too many conflicts, too many distractions, too many things going on. For two, graduation ceremonies and proms may conflict with tournament games.

Administrators and governing bodies don’t always handle these things well. You saw that in Massachusetts with the MIAA’s botched handling of an SAT fiasco.

And student athletes may get into trouble. They’re kids, so naturally they are not always going to make the best choices.

It started right away with the Wilton-Lyndeborough boys tennis team, when six players took part in “Senior Skip Day” rather than compete for their team in the first round of the state team tournament. They were warned, and they still left four teammates in the lurch.

There’s always a player suspended for this or that, and none has been more troubling than the apparent dismissal of Campbell pitching ace Connor Sahlin from his team, reportedly for violations of team and school rules.

It’s a shame. The kid was 5-0 and one of the most most dominant pitcher in Division III.

No one is publicly saying what happened, but it seems that Sahlin let his teammates down.

Still, they’ve rallied around the controversy as they march into Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester on Saturday morning to try to lay claim to something the Cougars always think is theirs – the Division III crown.

“That (missing Sahlin) is not going to be a problem,” said Tyler Butler, who tossed a semifinal shutout. “We can pull together as a team.”

The word “team” was mentioned upwards of 50 times in the Campbell dugout after that semifinal win over Berlin.

As Campbell coach Jim Gorham said, “That’s what we’ve been, that’s what we are. They are who they are right now. They are out to prove to everybody that they’re a team, that’s all.”

Not too many, including yours truly, thought the Cougars would be in Manchester on Saturday after it was learned Sahlin was finished.

Those type of distractions can swallow up good teams.

But not this crew. These kids are different; they reacted without trepidation when they found out they wouldn’t have their ace.

“It was a disappointment,” said Sahlin’s longtime sidekick, hard-hitting shortstop Christian Bourgea. “But we came together, kind of like a family, and we’ve been saying ‘family’ ever since. Really, we just forgot about it, moved on, and prepared to play without him.”

They have performed like a machine in doing so. It’s great to see. Gorham had an idea when the team, minus Sahlin, beat Bow at Bow on the final Saturday of the regular season, hopped on a bus right after that, went out to Somersworth and won there, too.

That should have been a clue, right? Duh.

“We just keep rallying together and sticking together,” Bourgea said. “I think we have a chance to do something special here.”

Win or lose in the finals, it looks like they already have, doesn’t it?

Oh, me of little faith.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@
nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter
(@Telegraph_TomK).